Marks & Spencer’s clothing sales, particularly in womenswear, have shown a small increase in the most recent quarter despite an overall fall in general merchandise.
In the 13 weeks to March 29, the retailer saw group sales rise 1.9%, with UK total sales up 1.5%, while like-for-likes fell 0.2%. Much of this was driven by food, which rose 2.5% and 0.1% respectively.
Within general merchandise- the arm that includes clothing – total sales rose just 0.2%, while like-for-likes fell 0.6%.
However clothing outperformed the wider category, with total sales rising 1.3% in total sales and like-for-likes up 0.6%.
M&S.com was up 12.5% in the period, and international sales rose 4.7%.
Chief executive Marc Bolland described it as “another quarter of improvement” for general merchandise.
“We are encouraged by womenswear, which is showing clear signs of improvement and performed ahead of clothing,” he said. The relaunched M&S Collection in womenswear was singled out for having seen a notable uplift.
The statement issued by M&S this morning said customers were “responding well to our re-focus on quality and style”.
However, the company is now guiding that gross margins for general merchandise in the second half will be down “as a result of a highly promotional market”. Food will offset this slightly, but in total UK gross margin is likely to be down 20 basis points.
M&S will report its full year results on May 20.